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Adventure Horror Thriller

Something was always off with the ol' Grandier house. Neighbors went out of their way to avoid the place. The structure was a stunning, two story, white with red finish, farm house on twenty acres that used to grow all manner of beans. The soil had long ago been overrun with weeds and natural vegetation. Workers had long stopped showing up for work long before Mrs. Helen Grandier passed away a week back. Some said her passing was of old age, counting 178 years. Others said that she didn’t die, as much as, walked herself into the underworld. She left behind her young husband and their three grown children. The town knew about her death because one of her daughters took their horse and buggy to the local grocery store for supplies. To the local’s recollection, this was the first time the woman had been to the store. The cashier supervisor, a frumpy woman named Candy, related her observation with the women at the local beauty salon the next day.

“My dear stars, one of them Grandier women comes in looking as pale as a snow rabbit covered in flour. She approached one of the shopping carts as though it was something from one of them ‘sci-fi’ movies. Randy, Patricia’s son, had to show her how to get it free from the stack. Then the pale princess moves through the aisles taking all sorts of basic supplies. Sugar, flour, oatmeal. Damn near cleaned out the shelves of those things. Mr. Richards watched all this happen and told her that she had to leave no less than five of each so other customers can get a chance. Well, she filled the cart and was hovering around the checkout line not knowing where to go. I guided her to Tracy, Virginia’s daughter, to check out. She walks the cart straight to the register without putting one item on the conveyor belt. Can you believe that? So I says to her, ‘Sweetie doll, you need to put those items on the conveyor belt.’ She looked at me as if I was speaking Russian. So, I do the right thing and help her with her groceries. Anyways,Tracy rings her up and gives the total. And do you know what this woman does? She goes to pay with a handful of the most beautiful gold jewelry you have never seen. I told her, ‘Sweetie doll, you can’t be paying for this with jewelry, you need money. Do you have any money?’ She puts the jewelry back in the purse and says, ‘My momma don’t be needing these no more. She done died and went to see the ferryman.’ I looked at her, not knowing how to best comfort her. My face must have said something that my lips couldn’t. She pulled out several crisp fifty dollar bills. Something seemed fishy about them, so I takes a look at them. All real, all from 1952 as if they came out of the US Mint yesterday. Anyways, Tracy takes the money and I had Gerald, you know the slow boy, help her load the goods onto her buggy. Into the sunset she rode. I mean, what a kook.”

The women all agreed with her “kook” assessment, adding their own personal opinions. Henrietta Horlandia brought the story home to her son, Thomas, who had just fled the big city for the safety of the rural bubble. He was aware that Johnny Law was looking for him on the streets of New York for information about a series of residential invasions. His mother was less informed about his activities, thinking that he had come home to help her out. A gleam in his eyes shone when his mother talked about the “most beautiful gold jewelry you have ever seen.” He figured that a ten minute hustle through of the country home would get him the jewelry and a descent attorney in the big city. He grabbed at the thought that some adventure might relieve the boredom of rural life.

Thomas began casing the Grandier home. He took residence on a nearby hill to watch the occupants through a pair of his grandfather’s military binoculars. He spent much time on a perch getting the information he needed to plan the heist. Two weeks of daytime watching taught him everything he needed to know. He counted the number of people in the home, their routine and locations of hiding places to access coming and going. He saw that the Grandier family would leave for the matriarch’s grave site far back on the family land around 11 am. They would travel by horse, have their service, eat lunch, have a second service and leave for home around 2 pm. Thomas knew this was ample time to get in and out with enough of that high end treasure or maybe some sweet mint fifty dollar bills without anyone being the wiser.

He planned the route in, his entrance and his escape home through a shaded gully.

The sun was bright overhead that next Sunday morning. Thomas made his way to a hiding place that gave him a good vantage of the family’s exodus. Everyone of the Grandier family made their way out of the front door, all dressed in black like usual. The horse and ancient buggy began up the long road to the family cemetery kicking up dirt behind its progress. Thomas bit his lip in anticipation. He loved the rush that came from breaking and entering. The planning, the danger, the reward. The path to the paint-chipped door was clear. Thomas had not seen anyone lock the door behind them, which he knew was typical for country folk.

The wooden stairs and porch creaked under his shoes as if to offer him one last chance to reconsider. He thieved his way into the foyer for an initial look around. Sunlight refracted at the window panes, casting the inside into shadows inconsistent with the light that came in. He was baffled how the light inside was able to create nonsensical shadows. He wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn that the shadows moved in place. The interior of the home smelled like expired cheese. The house walls were covered in wallpaper that had never seen a change since the original construction. Thomas looked at his watch to begin his time countdown from 11:10. To his dismay, a solid ten minutes had passed since his entrance through the door. He immediately concluded that his watch must be having a malfunction. He took a brief walk through of the lower level to make sure everyone was gone. The kitchen, living room, parlor and library had only distant memories and dust dancing in the air.

Experience had shown him that upstairs was the most likely place for valuables to be kept. Thomas moved towards the wooden stairs for the bedrooms. He dared to consider that this family would have a safe, though by their rustic innocence, he concluded that they most likely did not. He counted fourteen stairs to a landing and then another four to the top up to the left. He counted stairs as an important means to gauge timing in case he needed a hasty exit. He took the stairs with ease. When he was at the second stair, Thomas instinctively counted twenty stairs up to the landing and six to the second floor. He stopped in place. He wondered how there had been an error in his counting. The progress upwards took forever by Thomas’ perspective. His eyes continually scanned the second floor for any possible movement.

The upstairs level consisted of six doors. He concluded that one was a bathroom, one was a closet and the other four were bedrooms. The master bedroom was usually farthest from the staircase by his years of snatch and grabbing. Thomas moved along the wooden floorboards, keeping close to the wall. Floor boards closest to the wall had less chances of making noise and giving away his intrusion. He had learned never to assume that everyone was covered in the original count. Assuming that everyone who left was everyone in the home was an amateur mistake that he learned by the end of gun one day. He peered into each room, making sure the rooms were empty of unaccounted for family. He checked his watch. Thirty more minutes had passed by the hands. His time piece was at 11:50. The timing made no sense for Thomas who expected to be far gone by this time. Frustration at his watch’s malfunction built quickly. He had seen his watch slow with a dying battery, but had never seen it speed up.

Thomas entered the master bedroom with a heightened caution. Erie, hand made paintings of naked old people dancing in the arctic did nothing to calm his nerves. An aged cherry, dresser clock agreed with his watch. A deep chill ran through his spine. The single time he experienced this feeling was when the gun meant to kill him jammed during a break in long ago. Thomas pushed past his growing terror. He looked around the museum old room for a jewelry box. Nothing was available. Thomas concluded that since the older daughter had the jewelry last, maybe the goods were in her room. He figured by the simple layout that her room would be located across from the staircase.

He noticed a deep humming all throughout the upstairs, becoming more obscene as he made his way through the hall. The sound was unaccounted for. Thomas wondered if he had eaten something earlier that was playing tricks with his perception. The shadows downstairs, the stair count, the time passing and now the odd sounds. He left the master bedroom and came out into the downstairs kitchen in between his natural blinking. Thomas froze with overwhelmed panic. The kitchen clock showed that he had been in the house for over an hour. His watch confirmed the time of 12:32. Thomas no longer cared about the jewelry and hope for a fancy lawyer man. The need to get out of this place coursed through him. He went to the window, not trusting that he would be able to exit through doorways anymore. His hands pushed at the window frame to move upwards. Nothing happened. The locks appeared to be free. It was as if the frame was glued in place. Thomas’s emotional value evolved into full panic. He rushed out of the room, ending up straight into what looked like the daughter’s upstairs bedroom.

The dresser clock told him that another 15 minutes had passed. 12:47. A slight whistling sound began to make itself known. Thomas’ heart was racing like that one time he took too much nose powder. An aspect of robbing other people’s homes that he truly enjoyed was the sense of control he felt being in someone’s home without their permission. Thomas no longer felt that he was in control. The woman’s purse was on an old rocking chair in the far corner under the portrait of what looked like an old sea captain. A light ray of joy crept through the fog of terror Thomas was experiencing. He rushed to the chair pushed open the bag. Gold jewelry and a bundle of fresh fifty dollar bills were the only contents. The smile of success took over his face, alleviating some of the emotional burden. He had reinforced the pants pocket stitching long ago for the weight of the loot. He knew well enough that a person leaving a home carrying a bag looks suspicious. A person simply walking out of a home raised less attention. Specially made pockets made for lots of goodies with less suspicion. Thomas filled his deep, woven pockets with the money and every piece of jewelry in the bag.

Thomas’ goal was now to leave the house before any other unexplained phenomena derailed his final exit. He kept his eyes wide open leaving her room, hoping to avoid another transportation. Something passed across the upstairs window, causing a temporary shadow. Thomas found himself in the parlor as he stepped into the upstairs hallway. He dared to look at his watch. His body shook with fear. If much more time had passed, he would be caught with the valuables. Thomas knew enough about country folk to understand that many of them dealt “shotgun justice.”

His body began to shake without control. Regardless of the unusual circumstances, time was closing in. The family would be home soon. He wasn’t prepared to handle such a scenario. His worst case time in the home of this size was 20 minutes at the most. His watch told him that the time was now 1:40. He moved to the parlor windows. They were also stuck with clearly open latches. Thomas feared how much more time would pass if he crossed through the room entrance. The buggy would be back soon, assuming that the family hadn’t left early. He believed that he had no choice but to roll fate’s dice and exit the room. Thomas stepped through the doorway into the hallway without any change of location. A shimmering of color moved past across his immediate vision. He felt confused and scared. Immediately, something felt uncomfortably wrong. His clothing felt oddly heavier, bulkier. His steps down the hallway felt more labored as though he was wearing heavy boots, while carrying clothes made of lead. The growing urge to shed his shoes and clothes became obsessive.

Thomas felt as though he was moving through molasses. Every step through the back hallway was an effort. He felt an overwhelming compulsion to get to the living room. The logical part of his brain explained to him that the living room was close to the front door. Thomas seemed less interested in leaving at this time. His steps continued to be more labored. He decided to shed his watch in the hallway. No, that’s evidence, he told himself. Thomas didn’t care anymore. His shirt followed next onto the dusty, hallway carpet runner. The weight he sensed diminished with each item off. He shed his shoes and socks as he moved ahead. His progress increased. The living room was just down the hall now. Thomas removed his pants and underwear as he rounded into the sunlit living room with the shadows that had been all wrong. His prized jewelry was no longer a concern as it spilled into the hallway. He felt lighter, almost floating. Nothing in the world mattered anymore as Thomas searched his hands. They seemed more ashen than normal with a sense of being two dimensional. Under most circumstances, this would have been overwhelmingly confusing. In the moment, Thomas felt at peace as if he had finally arrived in perfect form. Thomas did not notice the sounds of hooves moving over dirt filtered into the room signaling the return of the family. 

  He could see the shadow shapes clearer now. He realized that they weren’t patches of dark but the outlines of other people in shadowed form. They looked to be attached onto the various surfaces around the room as blurry outlines of their former selves. Each one was looking at their hands as if there was some mystery which beckoned their absolute attention. Thomas moved towards the wall closest to the front door. He backed himself against the dusty wallpaper becoming one with the surface. The family disembarked from the buggy outside. Thomas was completely unaware of their arrival.

The family procession moved onto the wooden porch, reaching the sun-stained door. Lula May was the first to let in the sunlight. She saw the discarded clothes on the floor. Her eyebrows furrowed. 

“Pa, looks like we gots ourselves another one of them shadows somewhere in the living room.” The patriarch moved into the hallway.

“Yup, looks like this one was looking for Mama Helen’s jewelry.” Jasper replied with a bit of ambivalence.

 “Some fool ain’t no good fer this here world no more. Damn shame people have to be like that.” Judie Anne observed from behind.

“Well, it can spend eternity doing like the rest of ‘em. They ain’t a bothering anyone anyhow.” Jasper commented as he wiped the dust and moisture from his forehead.

“Judie Anne, get onta cleaning these here piles of rags off the ground. Make sure to put Mama’s jewelry back. I’m tired like a hound dog after a hunt and it’s time for some shut eye.”

“Alright Pa, I reckon a nap sounds about right for you.” Jasper made his way up the ten stairs to the landing and then three more to the second floor.

Judie Anne moved about clearing the items off the floor. She carried them to a giant trunk in the library. With one hand she opened the solid lid to reveal a pile of likewise, abandoned possessions. Thomas’ clothing was tossed onto the top with little regard. She closed the lid with a breath of annoyance. Judie Anne left the library and went into the kitchen for some water.

Thomas was absolutely amazed by his hands as though they held the secrets to the universe. He never stopped studying them as the decades past by, unaware of the new shadows that took residence around the room, each searching their own hands. The rest of his existence was as a two dimensional figure that looked like a blurred shadow against a farm house wall.



May 05, 2021 13:04

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1 comment

Pako Dunwhile
12:38 May 11, 2021

Thank you for liking this short story, please check out Waking Terror Judith Finds the Necronomicon The Great Old Ones Will Arise Again

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